Creating a sleek & comfortable design in a tiny space can be a huge challenge but this small studio apartment design proves it can…
If the size of the space mandates where the furniture goes, think about the pieces strategically. For example, if a bed has to go against a window wall, choose a headboard that still lets sunlight in, like this Florida bedroom by Todd Romano.
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“I’m really into saturated color with white to balance it out so it doesn’t feel over-whelming,” says Joanna Gaines, the star of HGTV’s Fixer Upper and mastermind behind Magnolia Home by Joanna Gaines Paint in partnership with Kilz. Having trouble picking out a bold color? Gaines recommends green, because it’s found in nature and timeless.
Designer Alex Hitz admits the huge portrait of his close friend (the late Nan Kempner) is a bit “ridiculous,” but fun. This placement adds interesting texture when in a spot you don’t usually see paintings hanging.
Jonathan Scott, home design expert and brand ambassador for Stearns & Foster, recommends owning two sheet and comforter sets, so you can swap them out by the season. “In winter, you want warm and inviting bedding, like faux fur and bulky blankets,” he says.
If you truly love something, you’ll want to put it on display. “Use and enjoy your antiques and unique finds, especially in a utilitarian room like the bathroom,” advises designer Bunny Williams.
It’s counterintuitive, but the trick to pattern is to use more. “It’s all about symmetry,” reveals Meg Braff. She uses prints in pairs, so that there is the same textile on one side of the room as on the other. “It’s comforting to the eye — you don’t have to ‘work’ to take it in,” she adds.
Dining room benches might not be conventional, but they sure are cozy. “You automatically feel more friendly when you’re sharing a seat,” points out designer Thom Filicia. “It could quickly become corporate if you were looking at a room full of chairs.” Vicente Wolf, also a designer, agrees on mixing it up: “You wouldn’t have eight identical chairs in your living area.”
Neutral decor can be interesting — just include a variety of materials. “I used a range — from fine-gauge and open-weave linen, to raw silk and taffeta, to cotton velvet and distressed velvet,” says California-based designer Ohara Davies-Gaetano. “Not only that, there’s also the contrast of matte sheens that absorb the light, and lustrous sheens that reflect it.”
“Everything in this room has a story,” designer Podge Bune says of her Hamptons living room. “The easy chair is covered in my old dining room curtains, a Designers Guild fabric they no longer make.” An easier way to achieve this: Buy a slipcover!
You might think of straw as an outdoor textile, but it’ll look just as good indoors. “Straw, jute, rush — natural materials and neutral tones are they always chic,” says Braff. “They’re the white T-shirt of interior design.”
In this case, designer Gideon Mendelson added a bright yellow throw and fresh flowers to flip an otherwise tame, blue-and-white color scheme on its head.
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For the entrance hall of this Pennsylvania farmhouse, designer Jeffrey Bilhuber opted for a curtain instead of a door. The deep yellow fabric pops agains the regal blue wall color and adds rich texture to the space.
“I don’t think it will last too long, but the look of velvet is a big trend,” says TV personality and designer on the new season of Trading Spaces, Sabrina Soto. She embraced this material by buying a deep blue velvet couch for her formal living room, but if you want a safer choice, go with a soft gray.
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To replicate the light, bright and airy look in designer Zim Loy’s Kansas City home, you’ll need lots of white paint. She bought an old $60 table at an estate sale and gave it a fresh new look by the painting the base high-gloss white.
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A little wallpaper, paint, or a few colorful accents can make such a big difference in your home. You can tackle each of these ideas in one day, even though the results will look like it took so much longer to pull off.
Kitchens with floor-to-ceiling cabinets can look dark, but here’s how to fool the eye: Designer Caitlin Moran will paint the ceiling a slightly paler version of the walls, so the room seems brighter even with just a few windows.
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Instead of tossing that random roll of wallpaper, use it to give your window treatments some color. Designer Zim Loy used Pierre Frey’s Espalier to wallpaper the vinyl shades in her guest bedroom, but to speed up the project, use stick-on paper.
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Eye-catching tile can make a statement in the kitchen as well as in the bathroom. Cover as much of the wall as the budget allows, recommends designer Angie Hranowsky. Matthew Quinn, also a designer, agrees: “It feels more like a French bistro this way,” he says of this blue-gray backdrop.
Matching can be so overrated — and expensive. Look online (and in thrift shops) for beautiful sets of antique china and silver flatware, recommends Williams. You’ll save money and the place settings will feel more special to guests than brand-new ones.
Cleaning up clutter can be a good thing, but there’s one thing hosts should never stow away. “Show, don’t tell, what you’re serving with a well-appointed bar,” says Bunny Williams. “Guests feel more at home when they can help themselves.”
“Create strong verticals and avoid the horizontal,” recommends designer Todd Romano. “I adore large mirrors because they add scale to a room. I also kept the furniture low-slung, so the rooms seem taller.”
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Swap out your formal chairs (in this case, bright blue and green ones) for a few rustic metal ones. Designer Ramsay Gourd did this to create a more casual atmosphere in the dining room.
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Most people opt for a frosted glass or an opaque curtain for extra privacy, but there’s something to be said for transparency. Glass shower doors, like in this guest bathroom by designer Amy Meier, add instant square footage. To complete the illusion, run the floor tiles straight into the stall. “It makes the room feel larger,” adds designer Alla Akimova. “If I had changed materials, it would have interrupted the space.”
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Just because the back of these shelves are tucked into the walls, doesn’t mean they can’t make a dramatic difference when painted a bold orange (which designer Kay Douglass knew all too well).
Shop a similar look: dark paint ($20, amazon.com), light paint ($45, amazon.com)
Mirrored panels like the ones lining this alcove can be elegant — but don’t just slap them up, designer Jan Showers warns. Large sheets of mirror will look commercial, so try a sectioned pattern in the traditional French style instead.
Half of the wall means half of the time, right? Here, gray creeps up to the middle, while the rest remains white, creating a subtle, yet super stylish, statement.
Designer Kelie Grosso opted for open shelving in this kitchen, which allows for fast and easy decor changes. Blue accents stand out against a neutral palette.
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Too many chair and table legs can make a room “nervous,” advises Warner. A skirted piece or two will make the space more grounded, and provide additional storage like in this office designed by Miles Redd.
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When hanging mirrors, think carefully about what they’ll will reflect, advises Showers. You want to pick up a great scene, like a pretty chandelier.
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This bathroom is so small that designer Krista Ewart knew it would be too much to cover the entire room — but a small section of Albert Hadley paper makes a statement and is much faster from start to finish.
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Metallic finishes already add plenty of sparkle, but the sheen will make a bigger impact in a variety of colors. “I don’t know why people don’t mix gold with silver more often — they look so smart together,” says designer John De Bastiani. “The key is to use a lot of both; you can’t be shy with one or the other.”
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“Decorative finishes, like glazes, will warm houses next year,” says Doug Wilson, a designer on the upcoming Trading Spaces reboot. Here, a charcoal gray trim breaks up the white, but doesn’t stray too far for conservative tastes.
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For the perfect color family, mix one batch of paint 50% lighter than the base and another 150% darker. “That’s a failsafe method for striping a wall,” says Mary Douglas Drysdale, who designed this bold blue kitchen. “It’s also a very architectural way of using color.”
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Taking the plunge on a strong hue can be intimidating, but the best way is to dive in head first. “One of the most successful strategies is to paint a strong color on everything, from the baseboard and crown molding to the walls,” says Garrow Kedigian, a designer based in New York. “It works well because it’s not contrasted against a different trim color.”
Small living spaces don’t have to feel cramped. “See how these living room chairs have smallish arms,” says designer Elizabeth Pyne. “Most of their square footage is given to the seat, so you can curl up in them. They feel luxurious and roomy even though they’re not big.”
The guest bath in Fulk’s vacation home feels authentic to the period of the house, but also clean and modern. However, a vintage barrel adds a ton of personality in the space.
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Designer Zim Loy discovered Hackerware on eBay: “There’s tons of it, and it’s so cheap!” She started collecting it for her dining room, then covered the whole wall with plates to create the same effect as one big piece of art.
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Don’t postpone a makeover because of naturally messy kids. “Put your money into a comfortable, well-made sofa that you’ll have forever,” advises Krista Ewart, a designer based in California. “You don’t have to deny yourself that expensive designer fabric you love — just put it on something small, like a pillow.”
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Designer Ken Fulk keeps the bedding playful in the bedroom of his Massachusetts vacation house. “The mix-and-match nature of the patterns and faded batik prints make it feel like it’s a collection of old textiles brought back from a journey at sea,” he says.
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A temporary space can look beautiful, even with a small budget. “We are so used to having painters sand for ages to produce mirror-smooth walls, but I wasn’t about to spend the money to do that in a rental,” says designer Max Sinsteden of his bright green entryway. “It turns out the irregular surface just sparkles all the more.”
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Equal parts art and clock, this sculptural time telling piece can make any wall special.
Before this red and white patterned tablecloth hit the table, this room was quite traditional. But with designer T. Keller Donovan’s touch, it becomes an eclectic room with tons of personality. (And fun fact: That tablecloth matches the custom Thibaut furnishings in the adjacent sitting area.)
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“For classic side panels, you really have to go all the way to the floor,” designer Scot Meacham Wood says. “If you’re looking at ready-made drapes, make sure that they touch the floor, even if you have to buy the next size up and have them hemmed.”
“Floating furniture away from the walls creates more intimate seating,” Burnham says. That means all you have to do is shift your furnishings a few inches to totally transform the vibe in a room — as seen in this California home.
For a head-to-toe makeover, the first step is creating a palette. “I come up with a basic color scheme for the whole house, and then I take that from room to room,” reveals Gary McBournie, a designer based in Boston. “It plays itself out in different ways in different rooms.”
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“Window trim is an often-overlooked opportunity to make a statement,” says designer Meg Braff. Jeffrey Bilhuber agrees. “I often end up painting them green, to blend in with the landscape,” the eclectic decorator says. “Or sometimes I paint them pitch black, so the muntins practically disappear in the evening.”
Designer Betsy Burnham picked out Turkish runners from Rugs & Art to add instant style to this California home’s hallway. The floor coverings also draw eyes to a Moroccan-inspired reading nook.
In the living room of an Atlanta house by designer Beth Webb, an elm plank table from Clubcu doubles as a dining table and a display for a collection of Chinese porcelains. “The pieces don’t have to match, but they do have to play together well,” she says.
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One pair of pillows always looks skimpy, says Melissa Warner, a California-based designer. Use two pairs, in contrasting patterns, colors, and textures. De Bastiani agrees: “I don’t do dinky accents…small pillows look like something that came with the furniture.”
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To switch up a room’s vibe, designer Ashley Whittaker recommends replacing one piece of furniture in an otherwise totally traditional living room with something super modern (it can be from another room in your home) — like this acrylic coffee table.
Soft colors give this Savanah, Georgia kitchen, designed by Mary Jo Bochner, a calming presence, which allows accessories to stand out. Reorganize your bookshelf by color to add a pop in the corner of your room.